Side dishes

Got apples?  Here’s a simple low oxalate recipe that has been a family favorite since I was a kid.  It’s perfect in the fall when apples are abundant and even better in the winter on a cold snowy night.  I serve it unsweetened as a side dish (it’s especially good with pork) or drizzled with a little honey for the boy’s dessert.   You can peel the apples if you want, or leave the peels on if you’ve got fresh apples without too many blemishes or pesky pesticides.

Fried Apples

6 – 8 medium-sized cooking apples (Granny Smith or Jonathon are good)
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
A drizzle of honey (optional)

Peel the apples if desired, then core them and cut them into thin slices.  Melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the apples and saute until tender, allowing at least some of the apples to become golden brown.  Sprinkle the cinnamon over the top and add a drizzle of honey if desired.  Stir just enough to coat the apples and serve warm.

Makes 6- 8 servings.

Oxalate Note:  All ingredients in this recipe are low oxalate or very low oxalate.  I prefer fried apples with only a touch of cinnamon, but you can use 1/2 teaspoon and still have a low oxalate treat.

OXALATE UPDATE (Dec. 2011):  Cinnamon has been retested since I wrote this post and found to be high oxalate at 38.5 mg./teaspoon (Thus, 1/4 teaspoon adds about 10 mg. oxalate to the recipe).  You might like to substitute nutmeg (2.3 mg. for 1/4 teaspoon) for the cinnamon or leave it out.   

Serving Suggestions: Serve for dinner as a side dish with pork chops or pork roast.  Serve for breakfast with ham or sausage, as a topper for Paleo pancakes or cottage cheese pancakes, or sprinkled with low oxalate granola.  Serve over ice cream for a lovely fall desert.

Other Diets: This recipe may also be appropriate for gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, Paleo, and carb controlled diets.  It is also SCD-legal.


When I was a student at Iowa State University, I liked to attend the Foreign Culture Center’s student potlucks.  I met a young Bengali woman at one potluck who laughed when I asked her for the recipe for her mung beans and rice.  She had never written down a recipe before and thought it strange that I hadn’t learned to cook from my mother.  After a long talk, I learned that she had come to Iowa with her husband while he studied engineering, plus I learned most of the ingredients she thought she had put into her pilaf “this time.”  I also had an idea how to prepare the dish, but it’s taken some research into Bengali cooking techniques to even come close to replicating it.  Strangely enough, I didn’t have to modify her mung beans and rice to make it low oxalate.  She told me she didn’t have any cloves this time, but cloves were usually good (no problem for me—cloves are really high oxalate; glad to leave them out!).  She also didn’t use as much pepper because she thought Americans wouldn’t eat it that way (I thought it was really hot and have reduced the pepper even more—not because it was too high in oxalate but because most of my readers are sensitive to spicy foods or have kids to please).  I think she said she put cardamom in the dish, but I was a newbie to Indian and Bengali cooking at the time, so I wasn’t sure what she was saying and was beginning to get embarrassed after asking so many times.  Since cardamom is often used in spice blends with cinnamon and cloves in Indian cooking and is relatively low in oxalate, I decided to add a little.  Cardamom has a strong flavor, however, so you may want to start with the smaller amount or leave it out.

Hope you enjoy this yummy dish!

Spiced Mung Beans and Rice  (Bangladesh)

1 cup mung beans* (soaked overnight)
3 tablespoons butter (or cooking oil of your choice)
1 ½ teaspoons raw ginger, grated
1 bay leaf
2 cups long grain rice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
¼  teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup onion, chopped
1 – 2 hard-boiled eggs

Prepare the beans by letting them soak overnight (at least 8 hours) OR place them in a large pot with about 4 cups water and bring them to a boil.  Turn off the stove and let the beans sit for one hour. Drain and rinse the beans.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the ginger and bay leaf and fry for about a minute.  Add the prepared beans, rice, cinnamon, cardamom and pepper, and fry for about 12 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Pour six cups water and the salt into the pot and bring to a boil.  Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes until the rice and beans are tender.   Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, fry the onion in a little butter or oil.  Place the beans and rice into a serving dish and garnish with the fried onions and slices of hard-boiled egg.

Serves 6-8.

*Note: If mung beans are unavailable in your area, you may substitute lentils.  Lentils do not need to be pre-soaked.

Oxalate Note:  Mung beans are a medium oxalate food with 7.9 mg. oxalate per half cup.  All of the spices are low oxalate in the amount used: 1.5 teaspoons raw ginger, grated (3.1 mg.), 1 bay leaf (0.3), ½ teaspoon cinnamon (4.2), ½ teaspoon cardamom (3.1), and ¼  teaspoon cayenne pepper (1.3).  Onion is low oxalate (3.3 mg./half cup), while the rest of the ingredients are very low oxalate or have no oxalate (eggs, butter, long grain white rice and salt.)  Each serving has about 3.8 mg. oxalate (based on 8 servings per recipe).

OXALATE UPDATE (Dec. 2011):  Cinnamon has been retested since I wrote this post and found to be high oxalate at 38.5 mg./teaspoon.   I suggest you either leave out the cinnamon or reduce the cinnamon to 1/4 teaspoon.  The recipe made with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon has about 5.7 mg. oxalate per serving or without cinnamon it has about 3.3 mg. serving.

Picky Eater Pleaser:  If you can get your kids to eat this, please let me know your secret!  I don’t have any cheesy pictures of my kids eating Low Oxalate Mung Beans and Rice because they think it looks “yucky” and won’t even taste it (except Aidan will pick the hard-boiled eggs off the top.)  I think I’ll try again with just a hint of spices and introduce them to the dish slowly.

Other Diets:  Low oxalate spiced mung beans and rice may be appropriate for gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian diets.

My boys have a new favorite low oxalate recipe–Jamaican Rice and Peas!  This is a staple from my vegetarian days that I haven’t made in years, but I had one of those crazy cravings and gave in.  It also seemed like a good learning opportunity for the boys.  What better way to introduce new cultures than through their food?

Low Oxalate Rice and Peas

Aidan loves his rice and peas (here made with kidney beans)

Rice and peas is an everyday staple in Jamaica.  Its subtle coconut flavor and creamy texture are a perfect complement to Jamaican Jerk Chicken and other spicy island treats, but it also makes a filling vegetarian main-dish.  It’s traditionally made with pigeon peas, but black-eyed peas or kidney beans are often substituted.  I make it with canned peas or beans because it’s so easy, but you can prepare  the raw peas yourself if you can’t find canned pigeon or black-eyed peas (use one cup raw peas with three cups water).  I sometimes use the  pepper and sometimes don’t.  Since you use a whole pepper and remove it before cooking, it doesn’t make the rice hot, but adds a nice, subtle pepper flavor.

The night I introduced Jamaican Rice and Peas to my boys, I talked with them about Jamaica and tropical islands.  They were fascinated and asked lots of questions and repeated the things I was telling them over and over.  I think it was the first time it started to make sense to them that people live in many different places, and that people in different places eat different foods than we do.  It was fun watching them learn, and  it was a very pleasant way to make dinner conversation with soon-t0-be-three-year-olds.  I plan to buy a good map to keep in the kitchen, so as we cook and learn together I can point out where the different foods we eat come from.  I hope this will also make cooking and eating together as a family more fun.  It sure was fun last week.  And it was even more fun when Aidan requested “Island rice and beans” again for dinner a few nights later (we ate it as our main meal the second night since I already knew they liked it).

Jamaican Rice and Peas

1 can black-eyed peas, pigeon peas* or kidney beans* (15 ounces) (see oxalate note)
1 can unsweetened coconut milk (13.5 ounces)
1 cup water
2 cups long or short grain white rice–not instant!
1 habanero pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2-4 cloves garlic, crushed
salt to taste (start with 1/4 teaspoon)

Put all of the ingredients into a saucepan, including the liquid from the beans.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender (about 30 minutes).  Remove the habanero pepper and serve.

Makes 4 main dish or 8 side dish servings.

Note:  Most Jamaican chefs start by cooking raw peas (which are soupy like non-drained canned beans) which is why I use the canned bean “juice” in my recipe. It keeps things easy and more authentic tasting.  You may like the texture of this dish better, however, if you drain and rinse the beans first, then add an extra 3/4 cup water.

*Oxalate Note:   Pigeon peas and kidney beans are medium oxalate ingredients.  All other ingredients are low or very low oxalate, so this is a low to “lower medium” oxalate dish depending on what type of pea/bean you use. Actual oxalate values are: black-eyed peas (3 mg. per 1/2 cup), pigeon peas*(7 mg. per 1/2 cup, canned), kidney beans* (11.7 mg./half cup, dried), coconut milk (0.0 mg. per 1/2 cup, Chaokoh brand), Uncle Ben’s long grain white rice (trace) OR “boiled” white rice (0.9 mg. per half cup), habanero pepper (0.4 mg. per sauteed pepper), thyme(2.5 mg. per teaspoon), garlic (0.3 mg. per clove), Hain table salt (0.0 mg.)

Picky Eater Pleaser:  Try leaving out the pepper, thyme, garlic and beans at first, so you just have coconut rice (you will have to add 1/2-3/4 cup water).  If your picky eater likes this, try adding back in the beans/peas first, then add each “spice” one at a time each time you make the dish.  Alternately, make “coconut rice” and let family members add their own beans at the table.  You can also use 2-3 fresh thyme sprigs instead of the dried thyme and remove them before serving.

Menu Planner:  Try Jamaican Rice and Peas as a side dish with baked chicken and pineapple, or as a main dish with a tropical fruit salad on the side (mango, banana and pineapple with coconut sprinkles-yum!).

Other Diets:  Jamaican Rice and Peas may also be suitable for gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian diets.